TK Arun

Raise a toast to Macron, and the French electorate

Raise a toast to Macron, and the French electorate
By calling the snap elections, Macron forced all those opposed to the Far Right to join forces. Photo: @EmmanuelMacron/X

Macron’s call for snap elections was a political gamble, and it has succeeded in deflating the Right’s political momentum

French President Emmanuel Macron has pulled off his political gamble. He has crushed the challenge from the Far Right, demonstrated that he has political sagacity and the will to act, and established himself as the tallest leader of contemporary Europe.

When the Far Right, the National Rally of Marine Le Pen, secured the largest bloc of seats to the European Parliament in the elections held on June 9, the result triggered a political upheaval. It appeared that France, the country of liberté, égalité and fraternité, was moulting these ideals to don a nationalist armour to do battle against immigrants, Islam and globalists. A thundering tidal wave of xenophobic politics was rushing towards France, it had seemed, to crash against the country’s cherished ideals and pulverise the political establishment. By holding snap elections to the National Assembly, and pushing Le Pen’s party to the third place, when the results came out, Macron has converted that tidal wave into a ripple and subdued its menacing roar into a dissolute murmuration.

Far Right pushed to third place

By calling the snap elections, he forced all those opposed to the Far Right to join forces, and thanks to France’s two-round electoral process, put up common candidates against the Far Right in the second round, to push it to the third place, when the results were announced.

Macron’s own centrist grouping has come second, and lost seats as compared to the House that was dissolved. And Le Pen’s National Rally has increased its parliament count, as have the Left parties, who cobbled together an alliance to keep the Far Right out. In the first round of the elections, the National Rally had come out on top, and its leaders, and the commentariat at large, had predicted the formation of a government led by the Far Right, after the second round of voting. Instead, the grouping has been pushed to the third place in terms of the number of seats won.

Suppose Macron had behaved like the conventional political leader, who believes that the bird in hand is better than the flighty ones in the bush, the political momentum would have shifted entirely to the Far Right, and Macron’s government, which did not have an absolute majority of its own, would have been paralysed by both the Left and the Right.

Strategy against Right

Those who look at government by numbers might perceive in the outcome of the snap elections, a worsening of the situation for Macron. But those, who understand politics as being driven by the crystallised force of public opinion, would appreciate that Macron has forced the Leftist combine that has come out numerically on top to cooperate with his own leadership as president, in order to not lose the political momentum it has secured in these elections to the Right.

While it is true that the Left combine, New Popular Front, has the largest number of MPs, and Macron’s Ensemble, the second largest contingent, their numbers result from the two fronts’ cooperation in making sure that the National Front faced only a single candidate in most seats, each grouping asking its candidate to stand down where the other grouping’s candidate was better placed to defeat the National Front’s candidate.

Macron’s tactic has, in other words, forced the opponent of the Right to cooperate in electing the House. It is logical to expect that they would be morally obliged to cooperate to run the government as well, even if they do not like Macron or his policies.

What works in Macron’s favour?

The hard Left in the Leftist NPF might refuse to help Macron, as might some elements of the Right outside the National Front. But most parties of the Centre-Left and the Centre-Right would feel morally compelled, thanks to the manner of their electoral success, and the logic of sustained opposition to the Far Right, if not out of expedience, to cooperate in running a viable government for the remainder of Macron’s term that ends in 2027.

The hard right is ascendant in other parts of Europe, as well. In Germany, the Alternative for Deutchland (AfD), the anti-immigrant party, recently expelled a leader after he demonstrated a zeal for spotting the milk of human kindness in members of the SS, Hitler’s black-shirted paramilitary stormtroopers. Hard right parties that are opposed to immigrants and Islam, and have a tendency to be anti-Semitic as well, are part of the ruling coalition in Italy, Finland and the Netherlands, and are viable formation in other polities, too.

Template for all opponents

Macron’s success in foiling the National Rally in France will serve as a template for all opponents of the Far Right in other parts of Europe as well. The simple sense of the saying, “divided we fall”, is likely to sink in deep, in the consciousness of the political class across Europe. They would have little excuse for not joining forces, after the French elections of July 2024.

But it is not just in terms of electoral tactics that the French elections would have an impact. Unlike elsewhere in Europe, the young have taken a fancy to the Far Right in France. Across Europe and in the US, blue-collar workers in industries that have borne the brunt of outsourcing and globalisation are ready supporters of the populist Right.

Globalisation improves living standards in countries like India, to which work from the rich world is outsourced. What of those who used to perform the work in the rich world? Can their stagnant living standards be ignored for long, especially when those who build global companies with global capital, global talent, use technology sourced from anywhere in the world, and cater to a global market rake in billions?

Questions to ponder

Is the solution to stop or reverse globalisation, as the hard Left demands? Does making it tough for business, with taxes or pointless regulation, improve the living standards of workers? How to make globalisation work? The Far Right has made it imperative for the mainstream politicians and the Left to grapple with these questions, going beyond simplistic slogans such as, ‘sock it to the rich!’.

An interdependent globalised world is a complex thing. Those who refuse to or are incapable of engaging with the complexity are easy prey to populism on the Left and on the Right. Democracy calls for consistent democratic engagement. The French election results’ extra-territorial impact would be to raise the demand for such engagement around the world, apart from enhancing Macron’s standing as a statesman of our contemporary times.

(The Federal seeks to present views and opinions from all sides of the spectrum. The information, ideas or opinions in the articles are of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Federal)

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